Restoration of Girard Avenue Trolley Service on SEPTA’s Route 15

Girard Avenue has been a bastion for rail service for over 150 years. Horse cars first plodded over segments of this key North and West Philadelphia thoroughfare in the mid-19th century. Electrification of the route occurred in 1894, and for a period of 20 years two trolley lines provided parallel service along lengthy distances of Girard Avenue. SEPTA’s predecessor, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT), later renamed the Philadelphia Transportation Company (PTC), discontinued the duplicative Route 14, while Route 15 survived. The route was officially established in 1895, and connected several neighborhoods from West Philadelphia to Fishtown. Between 1903 and 1955 a series of route extensions had taken the car line further into West Philadelphia to the Overbrook neighborhood and northeast along Richmond Street to Port Richmond and Bridesburg. The line over its long history operated from several car houses, and in some cases service was split between two depots. In 1922 and 1928, an elevated rail line and a subway system created new transfer opportunities for faster travel across Philadelphia. During the 1950’s, the corporate management of PTC rapidly replaced a large amount of Philadelphia’s streetcar network with diesel buses and a small trolley coach network. In 1955, Route 15 service to Bridesburg was discontinued and the route was restructured to operate from Haddington (63rd & Girard) to Port Richmond (Richmond & Westmoreland), based exclusively at Callowhill Depot. This paper describes how for over the past 50 years the line has remained virtually unchanged, except for two periods when diesel buses replaced trolleys. During this period, PTC was acquired by SEPTA in 1968. In 1969, the closure and rebuilding of the Girard Avenue Bridge spanning the Schuylkill River created a split bus/rail operation for three years. In 1992, the original 45-year old Presidential Conference Committee (PCC) cars were withdrawn from service and replaced with diesel buses on Route 15 and two other surface trolley routes. Resurrection of Route 15 rail service after 1992 was contingent upon the availability of capital funding for infrastructure improvements and the purchase of new vehicles. In 2000 SEPTA was able to secure the necessary capital funding to begin the restoration of Route 15 and the work included renewing track, overhead wires and substations. In lieu of purchasing new light-rail vehicles, a less expensive alternative was chosen -- the total rebuilding of a portion of the mothballed PCC fleet. In 2002, a contract was awarded to Brookville Equipment Corporation for the overhaul of 18 vehicles at a cost of $1.3 million per car. Concurrently, several capital improvements were initiated to prepare for the restoration of streetcar service. After several months of planning, construction, testing, training, and the resolution of community issues, totally rebuilt PCC cars resumed service on Route 15 commencing September 4, 2005.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: 10p
  • Monograph Title: Investing Today for a Brighter Tomorrow. Proceedings of the 2006 Rail Conference

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01033632
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 1931594236
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 18 2006 10:09AM